Visit: Domaine Georges Noëllat

Maxime Cheurlin of Domaine Georges Noëllat / Photo: Gretchen Greer

I first visited Maxime Cheurlin to taste his 2012s, and I’ve followed his wines with great interest and enthusiasm ever since, visiting every year. 2015 appears to be his greatest vintage to date. Maxime’s style might best be described as lavish: these are never aggressively structural or extracted wines, their elegant tannins always beautifully enrobed in fruit; and Maxime employs a generous percentage of stylish new oak too, much of it from the Tonnelerie Cavin. If one criticism can be levelled at them it is their facility: an easy sweetness of fruit and textural suppleness which sometimes makes one question their long-term potential; a lack, in some vintages and cuvées, of savoury depth, the foundation of true profundity. But happily, Maxime’s 2015s are the most reserved, tight-knit and deep wines he has so far produced: while they have sacrificed none of their visceral deliciousness, they have gained in seriousness. That this is only his sixth vintage at the helm of the Domaine Georges Noëllat makes their success all the more impressive.

The domaine has grown in size over the last few years, so the first wine I tasted from barrel was a new cuvée, a Gevrey-Chambertin En Champs; a rather rigid wine by comparison with the Vosne-Romanée which followed it, with a brooding bouquet of dark fruit, rich soil and espresso and a firm chassis of tannin. This village lieu-dit lies on the northern edge of Gevrey, bordering Brochon and just below the 1er cru of Champeaux, and here, as in the cellars of Domaine Mortet, it seems to produce a wine which is inherently quite stern and austere in its youth.

By contrast, the Vosne-Romanée AOC bottling, though both a bit more concentrated and less precocious than previous renditions, is a ripe, expansive wine, with a bouquet of ripe cherries, raspberry, dark chocolate, framed by new oak. Aromatically this seems to be one of the riper wines in the cellar so it will be interesting to follow its evolution.

The Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Feusselottes is another addition to the portfolio in 2015, and it is a lovely wine, with a beautifully three-dimensional, vibrant palate impression; a deep, tight-knit core; and a still-primary bouquet of ripe plum, cherries and floral top-notes—framed, as usual, by some creamy new oak vanillin and spice.

The Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Chaumes is one of the bottlings which has really benefited from the vintage’s extra concentration and structure. This is normally the most open-knit of Maxime’s 1er crus, a wine which wears its heart on its sleeve and drinks deliciously in its youth. The 2015, however, has an additional dimension on the palate, with a deeper core of both fruit and fine-grained tannin than usual. The complex bouquet bursts with plum, raspberry, exotic Vosne spices and raw cocoa.

The Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Petits Monts is one of the real stars of the range this year, a wine which flirts with grand cru quality. A bright and quite red-fruity bouquet displays notes of cherry, raspberry and plum, mingling with spice and incipient game. On the palate this is quite ample, rich and powerful for Petit Monts, but also delightfully pure, focussed and vibrant despite its rather broad shoulders; a very complete wine.

The Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Aux Cras, a cuvée that debuted in 2013, was more taut and tight-knit, revealing dark, brooding fruit tones and a serious chassis of rich tannin. Maxime makes very Vosne-styled wines from Nuits, but one does sense the appellation’s typically more masculine structuring elements here. This was hard to read, but my sense is that the only missing ingredient is time.

The Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts is the most youthful and primary of the premier crus in the cellar, with a reticent, deep and black-fruity bouquet of dark cherries, woodsmoke and rich soil tones. On the palate the wine is powerful, tight-knit, dense and—like the Petit Monts—beautifully complete, with lovely savoury depth to its ripe tannins.

The Echézeaux, from old vines in Les Cruots, is a broader, more expansive wine than the Beaux Monts, though whether it is appreciably superior this year is really a matter of taste. The bouquet is a bit more red-fruity and expressive, with more extrovert notes of spice and espresso as well as a more prominent framing of new oak. This is a lovely Echézeaux, though my preference this year is probably for the Beaux Monts.

The king of the cellar, the Grands Echézeaux, is a stellar success this year, and as Maxime and I spent a while chatting over this wine it got more time to open in the glass. Notes of dark cherry, plum, peony and dark spice introduce a primary, full-bodied wine with a deep core, lovely concentration and amplitude, and a long, penetrating finish. This is as usual more tight-knit and dense than the Echézeaux, and will really require a long snooze in the cellar.

After tasting through the 2015s, Maxime was kind enough to offer me my choice of a wine from bottle, and I opted for the 2013 Nuits-Saint-Georges Aux Cras to see how the inaugural vintage was developing. It’s evolving nicely, with a complex bouquet of dark berries, nutskin, raw cocoa and spice which is still quite marked by its time in new oak. On the palate the wine is deep, quite concentrated and full-bodied, showing the tangy acids of the vintage but with a beautiful core of fruit too. Give this five or so more years in the cellar.

A few days later, on Maxime’s recommendation, I opened a 2013 Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Boudots which showed beautifully despite its tender age. A sweet and expressive bouquet of ripe red-black fruits, spice and rich soil has integrated its new oak much more fully at this stage than the Aux Cras. On the palate, the wine is exuberant and expansive, with lovely balance and refined tannins enrobed in juicy fruit. A real hit: bravo Maxime!


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